THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Having quickly established itself as Australia’s premier mid-tier heavy minerals (HM) producer, Image Resources (ASX: IMA) is now facing another major challenge – to find further feed for its hungry processing plant. By Mark Fraser
Although the company’s high-grade flagship operation Boonanarring – located just 80 kilometres north of Perth in its home state of Western Australia – has only another two-to-three years’ mine life left in it, Image has enough expansion options up its sleeve to make sure the project remains an ongoing concern.
First cab off the rank is Atlas some 70km to the north, where an already-established resource of 18 million tonnes of ore grading 6 per cent heavy minerals (HM), including a combined 15.8 per cent zircon plus rutile (Z+R), looks set to add another three years of dry mining production.
Following this are the North Perth Basin dry deposits of Red Gully (6Mt at 7.7% HM; 15.5% Z+R), Regans Ford (9.9Mt at 9.6% HM; 14.3% Z+R), Helene/Hyperion (18.2Mt at 4.8% HM; 14% Z+R), Gingin South (8.1Mt at 6.1% HM; 13.5% Z+R) and Gingin North (2.4Mt at 5.5% HM; 9.1% Z+R).
All up this equates to an extra 93 million tonnes at 6.3 per cent HM; 17 per cent Z+R on top of Boonanarring’s current inventory of 30.3Mt at 6 per cent HM; 23.1 per cent Z+R.
Further exploration is expected to boost these figures.
In addition, Image has a number of dredge mining options – including Bidaminna (where the current resource sits at 45Mt at 3% HM and combined 6.5% Z+R), Titan-Telesto (140Mt at 1.9% HM; 12.8% Z+R) and Calypso (51Mt at 1.7% HM; 15.9% Z+R). Together, these add an additional 236Mt at 2.1 per cent HM and 11.5 per cent Z+R to the mining house’s inventory.
During the RIU Resurgence Conference, Image Resources chief financial officer John McEvoy indicated the company was initially looking to move its 3.7 million tonnes per annum Boonanarring wet concentration plant (WCP) to Atlas, where it had another three years of reserves, “with potential for further expansion”.
After that further relocation options included the neighbouring Hyperion and Helene deposits.
“At Boonanarring, as well as the potential to expand reserves to the north and west, there is also the potential to pump or truck ore from Gingin south and Gingin North,” McEvoy noted.
“For Atlas, there is the potential to increase mine life by pumping from the nearby deposits Hyperion and Helene.
“In addition, Red Gully and Regans Ford provide an option for a future WCP location.”
McEvoy added it was possible one of the dredging targets (particularly Bidaminna) could also be an option for a second operating centre.
Thus far this target has some fairly positive attributes – including a 90 per cent-plus HM grade, less than 5 per cent slimes, a 25-67 per cent leucoxene content as well as a 100Mt exploration target.
McIvoy told RIU delegates that while COVID had inflicted a, “limited impact on our operations”, the key issue for the first half of 2020 came from shipping, with China slow to ramp up production post its new year.
Image, he said, shipped 109,000 tonnes during that period.
However, since about May or June, Chinese demand has been increasing and the company remained on track to ship at its target rate of 90-100,000 tonnes in both the third and fourth quarters.
Moreover, this kept Image on track to meet its 2020 sales guidance of 300-330,000 tonnes, “despite the significant challenges thrown at us this year”.
One interesting development at Boonanarring, which looks set to moderately boost Image’s standing (or image) amongst the sustainability crowd, is the recent on-site construction of a 2.3 megawatt solar farm.
McEvoy told RIU delegates the resources house was now expecting to generate power within the next month.
“Whilst not providing a significant cost saving, renewable energy in terms of solar is expected to provide at least 25 per cent of our electricity requirements for the remainder of the mine life,” he said.